The Holden ECOmmodore

Holden has a history of quietly sneaking concept cars or forthcoming design changes into public view. Possibly its biggest hidden in plain sight concept of the last two decades was the ECOmmodore of 2000. Ostensibly a four door coupe version of the VT Commodore, it would eventually point the way towards the upcoming rebirth of the Monaro after showcasing a concept in 1998. But the real talking point was the engine package inside the swoopy body. Holden had joined the then burgeoning hybrid technology race, and in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, or CSIRO, put forward a petrol and battery powered engine combination. The petrol side was a transversely mounted 2.0L four cylinder, replacing the 3.8L V6 normally found under the VT’s bonnet. An electric motor, complete with super-capacitors and lead-acid batteries, supplemented the four, with power rated as 50kW. The fuel tank was down to 45L yet the expected range was 800km thanks to a near halving of consumption. There was plenty of torque available for the hybrid with a total of 290Nm, but thanks to the electric motor, 100Nm was there on startup. The transmission was a five speed manual and, because of the east-west engine layout, fed that oomph to the front wheels, not the rear. Emissions were said to be 10% of the normal V6 engine yet performance would have been within cooee of the existing engine and auto transmission. The body was a slightly modified Monaro shell; not only were there four doors, it was fitted over the longer wheelbase wagon floorpan. Aluminium was used to replace sections of the steel floor, with other weight saving additions such as polycarbonate replacing the glass windows, strong but lightweight carbon fibre panels, and some fibreglass panels also. Good looking 18 inch alloys were bolted to the reduced weight suspension components, with rolling resistance lowered by fitting narrower than standard tyres at 165/55. All up, the modifications lowered drag from 0.32cd to 0.28cd. The ECOmmodore would star in the Sydney Olympics torch relay, leading the first 70km stretch from the heart of Australia, Uluru. Although never intended to be a production vehicle, costing showed that if it had been produced, it was at a $3000 premium over the VT at the time. Ahead of its time at the time, the ECOmmodore foreshadowed other marques developing four door coupe bodyshells, and even more, it was 18 years ahead of a tantalizing piece of “what if” with HSV revealing that plans to electrify the ZB Commodore were being investigated. The last known location of the ECOmmodore was inside The Powerhouse Museum. What’s your favourite Holden concept car? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments sections below this article! 

Rare Spares Holden Torana GTR-X Concept Car

Holden has a very strong history when it comes to designing and engineering concept cars. Of recent years there’s the immaculate Efijy, and the reborn Monaro. Both two door cars, interestingly enough, as two other concept cars were also two doors. There’s the Hurricane, and the Torana GTR-X. The latter came oh so close to being put into production, and the chassis itself was based on the LC Torana XU-1. The low slung, fibreglass bodied, slinky looking, machine even had the same engine, the then potent 186S. Exterior design was eye catching, with a long bonnet that started with a flat, shovel-like nose, pop up headlights, a steeply raked windscreen, and a sharp tail with hockey stick tail lights. These were design elements that were later seen in two of Italy’s best from Ferrari and Maserati. Inside the cabin featured laid back bucket seats, milled aluminuim sheeting, a plethora of gauges for oil temp and pressure and the like, and a short throw gear selector for the four speed manual. That was connected to the straight six which produced 119kW and 265Nm. They’re hardly groundbreaking numbers now but for a car built in 1970 that weighed under 1050kg, they provided more than enough punch. Unique at the time were the disc brakes to be found at each corner. It’s unclear exactly how many versions were built; some say three, some say four, but it’s known that just one example of what could have been an inspirational car survives. Holden has a museum at its Melbourne based headquarters, where the sole survivor lives in cosseted luxury. Why wasn’t it ever sold? The population of Australia in 1970 was just over twelve million and Holden’s numbers indicated that wasn’t enough to justify what would potentially be a low volume seller. Considering how well received the Datsun 240Z was when it was released just a year before, and how it’s perceived still after nearly fifty years, one could say this was a somewhat shortsighted view. Have you seen the Holden Torana GTR-X? What do you think of the car? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Rare Spares Summernats 31 Wrap-up

Summernats 31 came to an end after four days of tyre shredding action in Canberra on Sunday 7th January. A huge success, this year’s Summernats drew in an incredible crowd of 105,000 and a total of 2,105 vehicle entrants – one of the festivals greatest turnouts in its long and illustrious history.   “We saw fantastic cars, fantastic behaviour, a great program of events and despite the extreme weather that we have experienced here, our health and safety team worked diligently to make sure our all of our patrons came and went home safely,” said Summernats co-owner Andy Lopez.   The most prestigious award at Summernats is the Grand Champion and for 2018 the honour was awarded to Grant Connor and his spectacular maroon coloured 1967 Ford Falcon, impressing the judges for its near perfection in all areas of design and performance. For owner Grant, it was a special moment.   “What an unbelievable feeling. I never imagined I would ever win Grand Champion. I was hoping for a couple of smaller awards, but this is surreal. I have to thank my family and partner for all of their support.” For Rare Spares, the event was a huge weekend and a massive success! Offering 20% of all orders placed and paid for at the stand, the Rare Spares Traders Pavilion was abuzz with punters for the duration of the four days.   Headlining promotions for Rare Spares at the event was our ‘Rare Experience’ promotion, which will give winners the ultimate motorsport weekend at the 2018 Adelaide 500 in March! To enter, patrons were given a key by the Rare Spares girls at gate 7, which was to be taken to the Rare Spares pavilion where the keys could be entered into a lock. If the key unlocked the lock, then the patron was awarded a prize. The lucky winner of the Rare Experience was D.Clark from South Australia, who can’t wait for their ‘money can’t buy’ experience.   Once again proving itself as the nation’s best automotive festival, Summernats will return in early 2019 for the 32nd time, and at Rare Spares, we’re already counting down the days!   Were you at Summernats 31? We’d love to hear your stories, head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about your Summernats in the comments section below.

History of the Sandman

The Holden Sandman, a car that represented a generation of Australians and likely one of Holden’s most iconic cars has undergone a number of reincarnations throughout its lifetime. While the true Sandman will always remain the 1970’s surf and lifestyle icon for most, the Sandman name has been used on a number of cars throughout the four decades between then and now. In this week’s blog we’ll recap the different looks the Sandman has undertaken throughout the years. The Original Sandman (HQ, HJ, HX, HZ) A combination of the ever increasing costs associated with owning a sports car combined with the increasing liberation and freedom of the youth of Australia led to a boom in the popularity in panel vans before the Sandman was even announced. Not one to miss a sales opportunity, Holden brought out the Sandman, a panel van by nature, with the added performance and luxury initially of the Belmont and eventually the Kingswood. Optional extras included the 253ci V8, a mattress, and sunroof while softer suspension and a drop-down split tail gate for ease of access differentiated the Sandman from the regular panel van. Understandably the Sandman was a huge hit among young Males who now had a car that could do everything – you could sleep in it, transport surfboards and ‘woo’ mates and lady friends alike; the Sandman was sexy. The Concept In 2000, Holden teamed up with surf wear brand Mambo to create a modern day Sandman concept. Based on the VU ute, the Sandman concept was received very well amongst the general public, with many calling to introduce it into production. Featuring a ‘burnin’ love’ interior, ‘bushfire orange’ exterior and the Sandman logo gracing the tailgate - the concept was true blue Aussie. Gracing the side panels were murals designed by Mambo’s head art director, featuring bush and beach goddess’. In reaction to the favourable reception from punters, the Sandman styled canopy was included as a $6,150 option to regular Utes in 2003, although was discontinued in 2006 when interest decreased, not to mention the incredibly complex nature of installation. The Race Car Supercar team Red Bull Holden Racing set about creating a tribute to the original Sandman in 2014 when they created their new ride car. In what looks like a VF ute from the side, and a VF Wagon from the rear, the Red Bull Sandman was met with mixed reception, although is none-the-less, an impressive vehicle. The car was originally built with a 700HP V8 and featured new-to-the-sport technology such as paddle shifting and a fly-by-wire throttle. This year, however, the Sandman has been used as a test dummy for the incoming twin-turbo V6 that will grace the sport come 2019. The car was used to unveil the new engine to the public in October 2017 with demonstration laps at the Bathurst 1000. The 40 year anniversary ‘reincarnation’ In 2015, Holden decided it was time to reincarnate the Sandman in the form of a limited edition Sportwagon and Ute. Although without a true panel van option, purists were left disappointed in what were essentially SV6 or SS-V Commodores with added logos, pinstripes and a ‘retro’ coloured interior. Given the small production run of only 250 across all options, the 2015 Sandman may very well end up a collectable in the future, particularly as Holden manufacturing in Australia has ceased. Time will tell… What are your thoughts on the various Holden Sandman’s throughout the years? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

The Final Holden built on Australian Shores

The final Holden built on Australian shores has rolled off the Elizabeth production line. On October 20 at 10:45am, the final four Australian built Holden’s were ‘officially’ completed with a red VFII SSV Redline Commodore the final to leave the facility. The Commodore, on black wheels with a manual transmission was the 7,687,675th Holden built and will be kept and used as a museum piece. The other cars down the production line on October 20 were the final Holden ute (SS), wagon (Calais) and ‘limousine’ (Caprice). With a 6.2 litre LS3 up front, the last SS will also go down as Holden’s fastest production model to date with 304kw and 570nm on offer (Not including HSV models). With accessories that include FE3 suspension, a sunroof and HUD, the final commodore is testament to the journey Australian built cars have come on over the last 7 decades. In terms of power, safety and usability the final Commodore (and Falcon for that matter) is hardly bettered in terms of ‘bang-for-buck’. After 69 years of manufacturing, Holden ceased manufacturing operations in October, leaving hundreds unemployed and bringing an end to a huge part of Australia’s manufacturing history. Employees were taken by bus to the Adelaide Oval for final knock-off drinks and treated to a show by the legendary Jimmy Barnes. The Elizabeth plant, in Northern Adelaide has been sold to an unidentified owner who will turn the facility into a business park. With this closure, we bid an official farewell to Australian automotive manufacturing and look back at the many classics produced on our shores. Stay tuned to the Rare Spares Blog where we will continue to take a look at the many classics produced on Australian shores. Do you have any Holden stories you would like to share? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.  

How did the Falcon and Commodore get their names?

The Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore are undoubtedly the two cars that will be remembered most fondly in the hearts of Australians as the years pass. But just how did the Falcon and Commodore get their names? In most cases, the names of modern cars are the result of hundreds of hours spent by marketers in boardrooms trying to conjure up a name that they believe resonates with the target audience. But in the case of the Falcon and the Commodore, there is a little bit more to the story! Read on to find out about the origins of the names of these two great cars. The Ford Falcon Unbeknownst to some, the Falcon has a history long before it ever hit the shores of Australia with some experts believing the name goes as far back as 1935 when Edsel Ford used the name plate on an early luxurious motor vehicle. It didn’t hang around long though, and by 1938 the Falcon had been rebranded as Mercury, which of course went on to become the long-lived ‘luxury’ division of the Ford Motor Company. The Falcon then reappeared in 1955 as a Chrysler concept vehicle, which was built with the intention of going head to head with the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet’s Corvette. After only 2 or 3 were built, the idea was shelved once the costings of developing a low volume, high priced vehicle didn’t quite stack up. Now from here is where the story goes one of two directions depending on which side you believe. The first story goes that in 1958, both Chrysler and Ford had internally named their new small car the ‘Falcon’. In the auto industry all names need to be registered with the Automotive Manufacturers Association, and in a case of true coincidence Ford managed to register their ‘Falcon’ a matter of only 20 minutes ahead Chrysler, ensuring the name was Ford’s. Controversy ensued and Chrysler was left searching for a new name. On the contrary, the other much less exciting story is that Henry Ford II called up Chrysler boss Tex Colbert and asked for permission to use the Falcon name. Colbert was happy to allow the name be used as Chrysler had their eye on another name… The Valiant. Two years the later the Falcon made its way to Australian shores and after a few early hiccups became one half of Australia’s much publicised Holden v Ford rivalry. The Holden Commodore As some of you may know, the Holden Commodore didn’t actually start its life on Australian shores. Some 60 years ago, Opel were building a car called the ‘Rekord’. In 1967 a slightly upspec-ed Rekord was rebranded as the Opel Commodore and marketed as a faster and better looking alternative to the dating Rekord. While the naming process isn’t as interesting or long winded as the Falcon, the Commodore was named after the naval officer rank. After 10 years of Commodore production the name was brought to Australia and utilised under the Holden banner. The original model, the VB Commodore shared its likeness with both the Opel Commodore C and the Rekord Series E. Right through until 2007 the Holden Commodore drew on a design used by the Opel Omega and Opel Senator before being replaced by the first truly Australian designed Commodore – the VE. So while in 2018 the Commodore will be replace by an Opel, remember it’s not the first time that Australia has been graced with a European designed Holden. What other car makes and models should we look at the origins of? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Volkswagen Beetle – The Peoples Car

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most instantly recognisable cars in the history of automotive manufacturing, and just as interesting as the silhouette of the iconic bug is the story behind its concept. In this article we will take a quick look at the history of the Beetle and delve into its Australian connection throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The origins of the Volkswagen Beetle date back to the early 1930’s when a Fuhrer by the name of Adolf Hitler proclaimed that the automobile, an at the time luxury afforded to only the very rich, should be available to the masses. Hitler specified that the ideal vehicle must be suitable for carrying 2 adults and 3 children at 100 km/h, while consuming no more than 7 litres of fuel every 100 km. Tasked with creating a vehicle to service the needs of the masses was tasked to Ferdinand Porsche. Porsche set about designing and building three prototypes, branded only ‘Volkswagen’ (“The Peoples Car”), the very round, bug-like appearance of the car ensured it was colloquially referred to as the Beetle. Throughout WW2, Porsche developed a number of military spec Beetles that served as the first to leave his Wolfburg factory. With it’s now distinctive rear-mounted air cooled engine, the military spec vehicles were near on indestructible and were even designed to float for a short period of time in case of emergency! By 1945 production was in full swing and the first customer vehicles were spreading throughout the streets of Europe. Armed with a 19kw flat four engine, the early Beetles proved a massive hit with the public and at a price of only 990 Reichsmark, which was similar to the price of a small motorcycle; the Bug was a genuine option for almost all families. Fast forward 8 years and importation of the Beetle commenced into Australia, with assembly of the Peoples Car commencing in Melbourne by 1954. Throughout the 60’s locally manufactured parts and panels were being utilised in Melbourne built Beetles, with work being undertaken at the now HSV owned Clayton manufacturing plant. As we’ve become all too familiar with in recent times, sales of the Beetle eventually began to decline and in 1976 all Australian Volkswagen manufacturing efforts were ceased and the workshop was sold to Nissan Australia. It wasn’t until 1998 that the first major re-design of the beetle took place and a look at the current Beetle finds a significantly different car to what was established way back in the 1930’s. The engine has been moved to the more traditional front mounted layout while power figures have increased with range topping models featuring in the area of 150kw. The unmistakable shape is still present and although not everybody’s cup of tea serves as one of very few modern cars that pay homage to their historical ancestors. Do you own an early model Volkswagen Beetle? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know about it in the comments section below.

Ford Mustang – Australia’s new favourite?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’ve probably heard that Ford and Holden have or are in process of shutting down their Australian manufacturing operations. And you’ve probably also began to notice the abundance of new Mustang’s on Australian roads, leaving us with a big question. Can the Mustang replace the hole left in the market by the departure of cars such as the Falcon XR8 and Commodore SS? In this article we’ll discuss this issue and have a look at Ford’s new pony car. The Mustang is quite a different beast to the outgoing Aussie V8’s; firstly it’s a coupe, so it’s unlikely that you’re going to see a Mustang with three kids in the back and a caravan in tow. It does however stack up pretty well from a performance point of view, the outgoing (supercharged) XR8 packed 335kw and 570nm, the outgoing SS features 304kw and 570nm while the Mustang is right there with 306kw and 530nm. All three will take you from 0-100 in around 6 seconds with the XR8 the quickest of the bunch with its instant supercharged power separating it from the pack. The one area that is unlikely to be disputed is the sheer breathtaking appearance of the Mustang. In comparison, the 4 door Aussie sedans have nowhere near the presence on the road of the American coupe. The Mustang breaks the mould of cookie cutter international cars that err in favour of practicality over anything with the slightest amount of character. And at the end of the day that’s what the Australian public will miss the most about Australian built cars – the character. They may not have been the fastest, or the best built, but they offered a crazy amount of ‘bang-for-buck’ and won the hearts of countless men, women and children throughout the journey. In 2017, close to 10,000 Mustang’s will fly off the showroom floor, and if supply could keep up with demand that number would very likely be higher. It hasn’t all been rosy for the Mustang in Australia though, with namely a dodgy ANCAP safety rating scaring off many potential owners, while build quality issues continue to take the shine off what’s an otherwise very impressive package from Ford. None the less, with Ford’s move to an international friendly range of cars, the Mustang is here to stay and the Aussie public has taken to it like a fish to water. What are your thoughts on the new Ford Mustang? Is it the high powered replacement for Commodores and Falcons that the Australian public is itching for? Or is it a short-lived fad that will be gone just as quick as it came? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Australia’s Best Classic Show cars

Australia is home to some of the most impressive show cars in the world, as evidenced by the huge turnout each year at iconic motoring events such as Summernats and Motorex. Whether it’s the pure visual spectacle or the respect we have for the time and effort that goes into building them, you can’t help but be impressed by show cars. In this article we will take a quick look at a few of Australia’s most impressive show stoppers. XBOSS Undoubtedly the most celebrated show car in the country, XBOSS has won just about every award worth winning. The stunning 1976 XB Falcon Coupe is one of the neatest you will ever see, and features one of the coolest bonnets we’ve ever seen! 8 years in the making, XBOSS was built almost exclusively out of the owners shed and has since taken on the world’s best at a number of prestigious car shows throughout Australia and the USA. If you haven’t had the chance to take a look at this car up close, do yourself a favour and track XBOSS down, you won’t regret it.   LSA Powered 85’ VK Commodore Australia has always had a thing for high-powered Commodores, particularly those built in the 80’s and this particular VK is one of the most impressive in the land! The 6.2 litre supercharged LSA is arguably the most incredible GM engine to grace Aussie shores and with a custom engine cover, this LSA fits the looks of this VK to a tee. And while the custom registration plate ‘CU H8N’ is a touch cringeworthy, the rest of this magnificent beast truly is a work of art.   11 Litre Hemi Powered Falcon GT A wild piece of machinery, this XY GT replica pumps out a whopping 1400hp courtesy of a huge 11 litre, 673 cubic inch Hemi V8. At Rare Spares, we love our classic Australian cars and love to see how individual owners go about making their pride and joy’s unique, and this Falcon is a perfect example of someone wanting to stand out from the pack. Coated in a beautiful gloss black and gold paint job, this car is most definitely a fan favourite. Word is the owner doesn’t mind taking this masterpiece out for a spin on the weekends, so keep an eye out for this wonderful beast. BUILTQ HQ GTS Monaro The Monaro… an incredible car which will go down in history as possibly the best looking Australian produced car. And “BUILTQ” is considered one of the best Monaro’s out there, with a 5-litre supercharged V8, completely re-upholstered interior and incredible maroon paint work headlining the modifications made to the beautiful coupe. But as with many show cars, the further you look in to the Monaro the more impressive it gets, for example the awe inspiring welds throughout the exhaust system. The owner of BUILT HQ regularly hits the road with his pride and joy, because at the end of the day, what’s the point of having the coolest toy if you can’t play with it?   What’s your favourite Aussie Show car? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Five unusual HSV’s

Holden Special Vehicles has earned an iconic status in the Australian automotive landscape over the last 30 odd years and has manufactured some of the country’s most impressive and fastest sports cars. However, as with most manufactures, not every single model has been a hit with the public and some won’t go down in history as ‘special vehicles’. Time has not aged the below cars particularly well, but none the less in this article we will take a look at three HSV’s that were on the unusual side. HSV SV1800 Astra The Nissan Pulsar… ah Holden Astra, wait no the HSV SV1800 Astra will go down as one of the least inspiring and unsuccessful HSV’s to hit the showroom floor. Powering the SV1800 was the all-conquering 1.8 litre four Cylinder Holden Family II engine which produced a mind-warping 79kw and 151nm. HSV took the Pulsar, added HSV badges, a Walkinshaw-esque ‘wind tunnel designed’ body kits and a HSV build plate. Only 30 sedans and 35 hatchbacks were ever sold, with the remaining body kits winding up as a special option for the regular Holden Astra. HSV Jackaroo For the HSV Jackaroo, designers took the regular Holden Jackaroo added an uninspiring body kit, velour trim and badges… and that’s about it. Less than 100 of the off-roaders were built, so perhaps as with many other obscure, short-lived cars if you’re an owner you may be wondering if you’re sitting on a gold mine. Guess again. The HSV variant of the Jackaroo will likely net you somewhere in the region of $5-7K (very marginally more than the Holden variant). Off-roaders bemoan the lack of a V8 or a supercharger that would have undoubtedly ensured the Jackaroo lived up to the HSV reputation of being ‘special’.   HSV Challenger Chances are that you’ve probably never heard of the VN Challenger, only the most diehard HSV fans will remember the 50 ‘dolled-up’ Executive Commodore’s that were put together for the Holden dealer group in Canberra. Features included body coloured wheel covers and bumper bars, pin stripes, a HSV grille taken from the SV3800 and Challenger decals and the only colour option was ‘Alpine White’. While the Challenger itself is not particularly unusual, in fact if anything it’s far too ‘usual’ to be considered a ‘special vehicle’, it’s the reason behind its production which is strange. In the early 90’s, HSV produced a number of short run models to coincide with motoring events and other reasons they saw fit, including the Challenger as well as the DMG90, SVT-30, 8-plus and Plus-6, none of which quite reached the lofty heights of many HSV’s that followed. Have you owned any of the above HSV’s? Or maybe you have a story about one of the many other HSV’s that have hit showroom floors over the last three decades? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments below.